Only people can tell the story of how they escaped one of the worst wildfires in California’s history, but telling the story from a dog’s perspective takes a writer.
And when the dog is a “member of the family,” then the story not only becomes dearer to the heart, but also lends itself to becoming an amazing act of charity.
Former Colusa City Councilwoman Kay Millard Hosmer’s new children’s book, “Barclay’s Big Adventure,” is the story of the family’s 14-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who went missing from his Glen Ellen home during the Northern California firestorm, a series of 250 wildfires in Sonoma, Lake and surrounding counties that burned 245,000 acres, displaced thousands of people from their homes, killed 44, injured 192, and destroyed 8,900 structures between Oct. 8 and Oct. 31, 2017.
“Barclay is such a darn cute dog,” said Hosmer, who dedicated the book to her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and in memory of all the pets that were lost in the wildfire. “But he’s deaf and he’s a runner. You let him out of the house, and off he goes.”
Barclay’s adventure began when his family took a short vacation to Yosemite National Park last fall, and he, along with the family cat, stayed in the care of a neighbor.
One evening, when wildfire swept the area near the family’s home, the neighbor was ordered to evacuate.
“She took Barclay to the car and tied his leash to the door handle while she returned for the cat,” Hosmer said. “But Barclay managed to pull on the lease until it came loose. When she came back, he was gone.”
While the neighbor searched for Barclay, she was unsuccessful in locating him.
“She had the cat but they had to go,” Hosmer said. “They only had 20 minutes to evacuate.”
What happened after that is speculation, of course, but Hosmer deduces in the book that Barclay was frightened to be out in the smoke-filled environment with thoughts only of finding his family. She fills in what other animals Barclay might have encountered as the wooded area and vineyards around him burned, and where he found shelter for the night.
“I just had to write this as a children’s story,” she said. “I have written children’s books before and I have two books coming out after this. I just had a feeling that I had to write it, and was able to put it together in about 15 minutes.”
For 14 days, Homer’s family could not return to Glen Ellen but they remained hopeful.
“Nobody could get in to find out what was happening,” Hosmer said. “They didn’t know if the two houses were spared, but they also didn’t know what had become of Barclay.”
While there is no accurate total of animal life, including pets, that perished in the 2017 wildfires, then considered the largest in California’s history, Barclay’s rescue by a stranger and ultimate return to his family meant there were some happy endings to the tragedy.
Since being reunited with his family, as Hosmer describes in her book, Barclay has become a celebrity of sorts in Sonoma County.
“He’s famous around there,” Hosmer said. “He was in the Fourth of July Parade, and in the park. People wanted his paw print on the book. It’s just a cute story for children and it makes a great gift.”
Hosmer’s book is available for $10 at Davison’s Drug, Gino’s Hair Salon, and The Picket Fence in Colusa. It will be available at Sav-Mor Market before the holidays.
What is also touching about Barclay’s story, is that Hosmer donates the proceeds from “Barclay’s Big Adventure” to the Sonoma County Fire Relief Fund, which then spends in as needed to help people affected by wildfires.
“I don’t take any money from my books, and I wouldn’t write them if I did.” Hosmer said. “I give 100 percent.”■